River Keekle restoration scoops prestigious national award

22nd October 2021 - Wild Rivers Catchment

Our removal of a 2.5 km plastic liner from the River Keekle near Whitehaven has won a prestigious national prize.

In what is thought to be the biggest river restoration of its kind in England, we removed the 180-ton liner and restored the riverbed with natural stones and gravels in 2020.

The river before and after restoration

At an awards ceremony in Harrogate last night, the project was announced as the winner of the River Restoration Centre’s 2021 UK River Prize. The prize is judged by a panel of industry experts and celebrates innovation and best practice in river restoration and catchment management.

Luke Bryant, Assistant Director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have won the UK River Prize and it’s fantastic to have our hard work recognised. We’re extremely proud of the project’s results – it has transformed the local environment. The river is re-naturalising and should become perfect habitat for fish spawning.

“A project of this scale involved working with numerous partners, including the Environment Agency, Natural England, designer AECOM, contractor OpenSpace, and consultants Dynamic Rivers and the University of Salford. It’s great to see the award celebrating partnership working.”

Left to right: Martin Janes (River Restoration Centre), Luke Bryant (West Cumbria Rivers Trust), Jodie Mills (West Cumbria Rivers Trust), Rob Williamson, Neil Entwistle (University of Salford), Adrian Hill (AECOM), George Heritage (Dynamic Rivers), Seb Bentley (Dynamic Rivers), Oliver Southgate (Environment Agency)

Sharon Kennedy, Environment Agency Sponsor for the River Restoration Strategy, said: “The Environment Agency are delighted that the River Keekle Project has won the UK River Prize.

“The River Keekle project was one of the most significant river restoration projects delivered in the UK and has improved the water environment in the area, with multiple benefits for people and wildlife. Removing the plastic has also prevented the material entering our oceans and the river is now in a much more natural condition, improving habitats for some of our iconic fish species.

“It is with ambition and collaboration that this project came to fruition, showing we can seize moments like this together to recover cleaner, rebuild greener and restore and improve our planet for future generations.”

The River Keekle restoration was part of the Environment Agency’s River Restoration Programme in Cumbria and the initial pilot phase was funded by that Programme. The second phase was funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development’s Water Environment Grant.